Posts Tagged ‘security’

David Chandler “Resilience and the Autotelic Subject”

Chandler, David 2013. Resilience and the Autotelic Subject: Toward a Critique of the Societalization of Security. International Political Sociology 7: 210-226.

Fillipa Lentzos and Nikolas Rose, for example, in their critique of understandings that security discourses seem to be leading to the securitization of life, observe that we are witnessing “perhaps the opposite of a ‘Big Brother State’” (Lentzos and Rose 2009:243). Discourses of resilience do not centrally focus upon material attributes (military equipment, technology, welfare provisions, etc.) that can be provided by governments as a way of protecting populations or responding after an event. Resilience concerns attributes of the population, both as individuals and communities, which cannot be directly provided by state authorities. For this reason, discourses of resilience do not fit well with traditional liberal framings of security practices as state-centric, national or territorial forms of mobilization, protection, or regulation. (211)

It appears that resilience practices are transforming security discourses from concerns with external threats to fears over the domestic or internal coping and adaptive capacities of individuals and their communities. (212)

Once the human subject is understood as lacking in the capacity to make “free choices,” the private sphere of freedom and autonomy becomes problematized and “life”—that is, the formally private sphere beyond and separate from the public sphere of government—becomes the subject of governance.4 This focus on the inner world of both the state (the milieu of societal life) and the individual (their decision-making capability) operates to efface the traditional subject categories upon which liberal discourses of security, sovereignty, rights, and law were based. Discourses of societal resilience thereby societalize security in their reduction of the formally separate liberal sphere of securing rights and interests into the “everyday practices” of the social sphere, now understood as the source or cause of the problems to be dealt with (see Chandler 2010, 2012b). (214)

The problematic of “bounded rationality” suggests that societal resilience needs to inculcate generic capabilities to equip people with the capacity to make decisions in situations where they have limited knowledge or experience. The inculcation of resilience, in fact, depends on the dematerializing or abstraction from specific risks or insecurities, to become a mode of life, a way of social being: “Risk communication cannot be detached from our everyday lives. It has to be hotwired into our decision-making processes and behaviours” (Edwards 2009:43). In making resilience a matter of the “everyday,” the exceptional event becomes subsumed into the life process itself—choices of university, life partner, insurance policy, child rearing, etc.—subsuming responses to external risk, such as terrorist attack or environmental disaster, under the generic policy concerns of societal governance. (215)

In terms of genealogical framings, it is important to emphasize that what is key in the work of new institutional economics, and developed in the ideas of Hayek, is a conceptual framework of critique and inversion of classical liberal assumptions. This critique was based upon the dethroning or decentering of the human subject as a rational agent, capable of securing itself through knowing and shaping its external world. Even though Hayek does not explicitly frame his understanding in terms of resilience, the individual, subject-centered problematic of learning and adaption, and the influential role of the societal milieu—central to today’s societal discourses of resilience—is fully present. (216)

Giddens states that in the preliberal age, or pre-Enlightenment era, the main conceptual framework for dealing with, or rationalizing, unexpected events or contingencies was through the understanding of fate or nature or God— catastrophic events could not be prevented, merely accepted. In the liberal era, the dominant framework of understanding was that of “risk” or “accident,” a framework which highlighted the borders of control and could be calculated, minimized, or insured against—the point being that “accidents” or “risks” were conceptualized as external factors, outside control.7 Giddens argues that today there is no outside to the human world and therefore no external risk. Once the problem is understood in terms of manufactured risk—setbacks and damage as a consequence of the decisions we take ourselves—work on the self is the only area through which these problems can be addressed. (218-219)

Giddens’ work is very important for understanding and drawing out the consequences of a societalized conception of security within discourses of resilience, and its relationship to our understanding of the human subject. The key point Giddens makes is that societal security has to be addressed at the level of the inner life or the inner capacities of the individual, rather than the material level. This transformation occurs through welcoming insecurity and establishing a proactive relationship to potentially destabilizing security risks: “Schemes of positive welfare, orientated to manufactured rather than external risk, would be directed to fostering the autotelic self. The autotelic self is one with an inner confidence which comes from self-respect, and one where a sense of ontological security, originating in basic trust, allows for a positive appreciation of social difference. It refers to a person able to translate potential threats into rewarding challenges, someone who is able to turn entropy into a consistent flow of experience. The autotelic self does not seek to neutralize risk or to suppose that “someone else will take care of the problem”; risk is confronted as the active challenge which generates self-actualization.” (1994:192, emphasis added) (220)

The autotelic self is understood as an individual capable of self-governing in a world of contingency and radical
uncertainty. The autotelic self turns insecurity into self-actualization, into growth. The subject being interpellated—the “autotelic self”—is very different from the universalized subject of liberal modernity. Whereas the modern liberal subject was assumed to have the will and capacity to collectively act on and to transform, to secure and to know its external world, the transformative activity of the autotelic self is restricted to the internal and cognitive realm. (220)

The reduction of politics to the administration of life was a central concern for Arendt, who argued that “through society it is the life process itself which in one form or another has been channeled into the public realm” (1998:45). The problematic of the societal influencing of behavioral choices she believed “reduce[d] man as a whole, in all his activities, to the level of a conditioned and behaving animal” (1998:45). Rather than understanding and resolving problems through action in the external world, this framing “concerns only a possible change in the psychology of human beings—their so-called behaviour patterns—not a change of the world they move in” (1998:49). For Arendt, this was a “psychological interpretation, for which the absence or presence of a public realm is as irrelevant as any tangible, worldly reality” (1998:49). (220)

The reduction in social, economic, political, and ecological questions to ones of individual choice-making capacities and environmental choice-shaping interventions is so pervasive, we often do not give the broader discourses of societal resilience a second thought. In essence, discourses of societal resilience seek to extend the responsibility of individuals to the world itself, insofar as it becomes reduced to the product of individual behavioral choice. Here, the subject, considered individually and communally, is held to be autotelic—to cognitively construct its own life or world. (222-223)

Cavelty, Kaufmann and Kristensen “Resilience and (In)security: Practices, Subjects, Temporalities”

Cavelty, Myriam Dunn; Kaufmann, Mareile; Kristensen, Kristian Soby 2015. Resilience and (In)security: Practices, Subjects, Temporalities. Security Dialogue 46(1): 3-14.

The basic assumption is that the (in)security of a subject is not only dependent on the character and severity of the threat it is exposed to (its vulnerability), but also on the subject itself – namely, its resilience to detrimental events. The concept thus aspires to describe mechanisms for maintaining stability, survival, and safety – mechanisms that seem equally applicable to the individual, society, nature, and technical systems. (4)

Resilience links security to logics of governance rooted in ecology, engineering, and psychology, which were previously not prominent in the security discourse. It provides novel conceptual linkages and forms of knowledge and asks for interdisciplinary epistemic communities as well as new modes of governance, including more and different types of actors. These interlinkages are the key to understanding how resilience functions in the realm of security, and how resilience is inscribed in a longer historical sequence dealing with the relationship between threats and the threatened and between effect and the affected. (5)

By acknowledging and accepting the idea of an unstable, unpredictable environment, the rise of resilience marks a significant shift from the predictable to the contingent. In contrast to risk analytics and other strategies that mainly seek to prevent and prepare for a potentially disruptive future, resilience is characterized by a temporality that combines the present with the future, but also actively deals with insecurities of the past. (5)

Underlining the importance of the disastrous event splits time into past and future and gives particular political significance to the practices of resilience – which either refer to overcoming past events or potential future disruption. In preparing for resilience, it is the imagined event of the future that determines the present. In enacting resilience, it can also be the disastrous event of the past that determines action in the present (and potentially the future, too). Therefore, resilience is related to technologies of preparedness, but also to the actual process of ‘coping’ (O’Malley, 2010: 488). With this emphasis on adapting to new situations, the discourse of resilience becomes ‘a discourse of futurity’ (Schott, 2013: 213). At the same time, it is backwards-oriented and encourages ‘actors to learn from catastrophes so that societies can become more responsive to further catastrophes on the horizon’ (Evans and Reid, 2013: 91). Resilience therefore promotes a vision of uncertain and traumatic futures (O’Malley, 2010: 488, 492) in tandem with the possibility of overcoming past adverse events and experiences. (7)

[…] resilience redistributes responsibilities – and possibilities of blame. It moves from government to municipalities, from national to local, from security authorities to the citizen – expecting and encouraging beneficial self-organization in the face of crisis by those units that are both knowledgeable of local contexts and directly affected by the adverse event (Hagmann and Dunn Cavelty, 2012). Such a responsibilization has been discussed as a form of  empowerment by some, especially if linked to participation and citizen-led initiatives (Bulley, 2013; Rogers, 2013a). Others have warned against an overly romantic notion of community, which is sought through resilience attempts targeted at the vulnerable (Bulley, 2013). Resilience programs create the subject they speak about and valorize it as either resilient and desirable or vulnerable, undesirable and in need of state intervention. (7)

not only the possibility of disruptive one-time events integrates the need for future resilience into the present. Structurally different from disastrous events are chronic emergencies that have already materialized and continuously materialize in the present. In its assumed universal applicability, resilience is also used to provide answers to such persistent insecurities. Chronic emergencies – for example, climate change (Methmann and Oels, 2015) – inject yet another temporality into the resilience concept. This already materialized insecurity requires a specific set of skills in the resilient subject to deal with insecurity, as the authors of this special issue illustrate. Howell’s account of the soldier takes yet a different angle on the chronic aspect of insecurity, since a resilient soldier, by dealing with the crisis of combat, also contributes to its perpetuation. Resilience thus not only responds to but actively extends crisis, adding to the temporality of the continuous (Howell, 2015). In sum, resilience assembles diverse security practices of dealing with a disruptive past, a potentially disruptive future and ongoing, chronic disruption in the present, all of which emphasize the reiterative temporality of resilience practices. (9)

Resilience thus brings the subject into the focus of security policies – not as an entity to be protected but as an active and responsible contributor to security. This results in a specific relationship between political practices and subjects. Not only is the subject a central enactor of resilience, but resilience policies and practices are productive of specific subjects: the autonomous, organized, emergency-managing subject who behaves in the way that the respective political rationale or practice promotes. (10)

Brad Evans and Julian Reid “Dangerously Exposed: The Life and Death of the Resilient Subject”

Evans, Brad; Reid, Julian 2013. Dangerously Exposed: The Life and Death of the Resilient Subject. Resilience 1(2): 83-98.

[…] the game of survival has to be played by learning how to expose oneself to danger rather than believing in the possibility of ever achieving freedom from danger as such. (83)

Resilience, then, describes much more than the mere capacities of species to persist. It describes the ways in which life learns from catastrophes so that it can become more responsive to further catastrophes on the horizon. It promotes adaptability so that life may go on living despite the fact that elements of it may be destroyed. It confronts all of us living beings, ranging from weeds to humans, with the apparent reality that managing our exposure to dangers is as much as we can hope for because danger is a necessity for our development. (84)

The underlying ontology of resilience, therefore, is actually vulnerability. To be able to become resilient, one must first accept that one is fundamentally vulnerable. (84)

To increase its resilience […], the subject must disavow any belief in the possibility to secure itself and accept, instead, and understanding of life as a permanent process of continual adaptation to threats and dangers which are said to be outside its control. As such, the resilient subject is a subject which must permanently struggle to accommodate itself to the world, and not a subject which can conceive of changing the world, its structure and conditions of possibility. However, it is a subject which accepts the dangerousness of the world it lives in as a condition for partaking of that world and which accepts the necessity of the injunction to change itself in correspondence with threats now presupposed as endemic. (85)

Resistance here is transformed from being a political capacity aimed at the achievement of freedom from that which threatens and endangers to a purely reactionary impulse aimed at increasing the capacities of the subject to adapt to its dangers and simply reduce the degree to which it suffers. This conflation of resistance with resilience is not incidental but indicative of the nihilism of the underlying ontology of vulnerability at work in contemporary policies concerned with climate change and other supposedly catastrophic processes. (85)

Liberalism […] is a security project. From its outset, it has been concerned with seeking answers to the problem of how to secure itself as a regime of governance through the provision of security to the life of populations subject to it. It will, however, always be an incomplete project because its biopolitical foundations are flawed; life is not securable. (85-86)

Resilience is premised upon the ability of the vulnerable subject to continually re-emerge from the conditions of its ongoing emergency. Life quite literally becomes a series of dangerous events. Its biography becomes a story of non-linear reactions to dangers that continually defy any attempt on its behalf to impress time with purpose and meaning. (87)

While the logic of security works on the principle of achieving freedom from dangers, resilience assumes the need to engage with them because their realisation is unavoidable. (87)

Resilience […] evidences most clearly how liberal power is confronting the realities of its own self-imposed political foreclosure as the reality of finitude is haunted by infinite potentiality. This brings us to a pivotal moment in the history of liberalism as the project finally abandons its universal aspirations, along with any natural claims to promote all life as a self-endowed subject with inalienable rights. With the outside vanquished to the disappointing realisation of endemic crises, sheer survivability becomes the name of the political game. (91)

[…] resilience is a form of neoliberal interventionism which, speaking in a governing tone, nevertheless, segregates life on account of its vulnerable qualities as a self-propelling tendency and emancipatory orientation. The connections here to contemporary austerity measures are particularly striking. Such calls have nothing to say about political processes or opening new sites for emancipation. The political is, in fact, pathologised as an unnecessary impediment to the austere vision. What is demanded is a new sense of social responsibility that places the burden of the crises directly onto the shoulders of the globally impoverished, thereby rendering social safety nets as part of the wider systemic problem. (94)

Post-utopianism takes on a number of distinct features in which idealised lifestyles are no longer presented as a common good but a matter of exclusivity. If there is any resonance to idealism, it is not premised on inclusion but the need to be able to ‘opt-out’ of the social landscape. (96)

Frédéric Gros “The Fourth Age of Security”

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Gros, Frédéric 2014. The Fourth Age of Security. – Lemm, Vanessa; Vatter, Miguel (eds). The Government of Life. Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism. New York: Fordham University Press, 17-28.

The frst age of security is the spiritual age and corresponds to the frst sense taken on by the term “security” in the West. The word “security” derives from the Latin securitas, which can be deconstructed into sine curae: without troubles, without cares. The Greek equivalent, a-taraxia, also means without worries, without unrest. Security designates, in its frst problematization, the mental state of the wise man that has attained defnitive serenity through a series of appropriate spiritual exercises. Here, security has a spiritual meaning, rather than a political one. (17-18)

The goal is to reach in this way a perfect mastery of oneself and of one’s emotions, to constitute a strong ego that would be able to act in the world and confront the world’s hazards without ever allowing oneself to become destabilized. This Stoic security designates the stability of a subject who does not allow him- or herself to be moved by anything and who has at his or her disposal spiritual means that are powerful enough to prevail over all of the world’s misfortunes. This frst sense of security as serenity, as the condition of the wise man, as steadiness of disposition has been of great importance for our culture. (19)

It is important to understand that in this frst sense “security” does not refer to the feeling of being protected or to the absence of any danger, but instead to the capacity to maintain the tranquility of one’s soul in the middle of these dangers and to find the source of security exclusively within oneself. (19)

The second age of security is the imperial age, a concept that has often been suggested by Foucault, even if he never devoted any longer exploration to this problem. (19)

This synthesis between the ideas of Empire, peace, and security had already been prepared by the Roman Empire in the time of Nero when one could fnd coins engraved with the motto “pax et securitas.” But in the European Middle Ages this security, a propaganda theme in the Roman Empire, becomes a political program founded on a mystical hope. In millenarian doctrine, this thousand-year period before the Last Judgment will witness simultaneously the end of history and the disappearance of borders. Indeed, this period of peace and security presupposes the establishment of a single Empire, the Empire of the last days, which brings together all nations around one single faith and in one single political space. One sole flock, as these millennium texts repeat over and again, with one solitary shepherd. The great problem that confronts the medieval West is how to know who this last Emperor will be: will he be French (a new Charlemagne), German (a new Frederick), or might it even be the pope, leader of Christendom? (20)

For here security is Empire; security is the unifcation of worlds; security is the end of history. (20)

The third age of security corresponds to the history of Western Europe and the rise of political philosophies centered on the state of nature and the social contract, that is, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, and Rousseau. (21)

This third age of security can be understood on the basis of the disappearance of the medieval dream of Empire, starting with the construction of a new political space composed of a plurality of sovereign states, each attempting to maintain its individual place in the midst of all the others, exemplifed by Westphalian Europe. Here it is no longer a question of security as a spiritual condition, nor of the myth of an Empire of the last days. Instead, the goal is to think the consistency of a nation-state in the midst of history. Security will be defned as the consistency of the state, which is simultaneously the consistency supplied by the state to the rights of its citizens and to the existence of its subjects, and the consistency that the state provides for itself as one political subject in relation to others. Indeed, the very meaning of the word “security” is immediately divided into internal security and external security. (21)

[…] all modern political philosophers want to give a double meaning to the word “nature”: it refers either to the savage immediacy of the state of nature, or to the conformity to Reason and God (natural law or laws). The creation of society and the institution of the state have as their purpose to make possible the application of the laws of nature understood as rational and divine laws: let ownership gained through labor be guaranteed, let the equality of all before the law be respected, let public freedom be preserved, let human solidarity be maintained and encouraged. In all these texts, security does not appear as a right among others, but as the very movement through which our natural dispositions must be assured, guaranteed, maintained, and all this against the eventual abuses of power by a biased, unjust state and against the influence of pressure groups representing particular interests. Security is the process through which consistency must be given by the state and by society to the fundamental, natural dispositions of man,
which, in the state of nature, are precarious and in vain. (22)

For a state, then, external security signifies the defense of its territorial integrity, the development of its military power, the necessity of alliances (which will always be fragile and reversible), the cynical calculation of its interests, the development of a systematic suspicion all other countries, and its ability to start wars or make peace as soon as its interests come into play. In expressions such as “nuclear security,” “UN Security Council,” or “collective security system” it is this sense of “security” which is predominant, and which has been predominant in Europe across the nineteenth century and up to the end of the Cold War. I refer to this sense of security as sovereign security. (22-23)

Biopolitics names the fourth age of security. […] The object of security has changed. The great statements of political realism named, as the principal object of security, the defense of the state’s territorial integrity, which may require the sacrifce of citizens. The doctrine of human security instead proclaims insistently that living populations and individuals ought to constitute the new object of security. They are what must be protected: what is sacred is no longer the sovereignty of the state, but the life of the individual. From here arises the principle of the right to interference, or what international institutions today defne as the “responsibility to protect.” (23)

As soon as the state is no longer the frst and fnal object of security, everything that is involved in the life of civil populations becomes an object of security. In this manner, one speaks today of “nutritional security” and “energy security.” The chief characteristic of these new objects of security is that they are constituted by flows: the flow of food, of energy, but also of images and of data (and, by simple extension, one speaks of “traffic security,” “information security,” “internet security,” etc.). (23-24)

This redistribution of objects also involves a redistribution of the principal actors of security. Previously, the state constituted itself simultaneously as the sole object and sole subject of security. Once the object of security is seen as constituted by civil populations, or by various flows, the principal actors of security change as well. One witnesses a double movement that leads constantly to the delegitimization of the state as sole actor of security: on the one hand, a privatization of security in which private companies and organisms present themselves as specialists in the control of a given flow, and on the other hand, a humanitarianization of security in which the protection of civil populations will fall under the aegis of humanitarian organizations that do not, unlike states, seek to protect one or more given sets of political subjects, but strive to come to the aid of civil populations that are at risk of death, no matter what the nature of this risk may be. (24)

After the Second World War, through the work of Donald Winnicott and Margaret Mahler (and later through the work of Franz Veldman and the school of haptonomy), an idea took shape in contemporary psychology that security is to be defned as the internal construction of the subject: security is what allows the child to grow up successfully. From here on child psychology is redefned as a technique for making the child secure. Security is understood simultaneously as protection—that is, the child must feel surrounded by a protective barrier, safe from external threats—and as the control of flow, since security is based on the regularity of flows of food and a regulated exchange, between parent and child, of the flows of communication and affection. It is striking the way in which the question of security is no longer posed in terms of closure as in the modern age, where the two symbols of security were the prison, for internal security, and the border, for external security, but, instead, in terms of the control of circulations and exchanges. The key sites of security are no longer borders defining the spaces of states, but, within the territory itself, airports and railway stations, that is, the nodal points of communication and exchange. The problem becomes one of “traceability”: the ability to determine, at any given moment, what is moving, where it is coming from, where it is going, what it is doing in its current place, and if it actually has a right of access to the
network in which it is moving or if its use of the network is unauthorized. (25)

This new definition of security thus produces a continuous stream of threats, whether these are economic, climactic, social, ecological, political, hygienic, medical, or nutritional. Everything is part of one single continuum: natural disasters, epidemics, terrorist attacks, civil wars, rivalries between crime syndicates vying for the control of illicit traffcking in arms, drugs, people, climate change, poverty and unemployment, and so on. Today, all these threats are considered as risks to society understood in the broadest possible sense. In the interior of states, this continuum of threats is produced through the concept of “global security” which stands to a given population as “human security” stands to the whole of humanity, and which entails, in France and elsewhere, the fusion of all those institutional security authorities that had heretofore been separate. (26)

The biopolitical age of security has led to this great equivalence of all threats. This continuity and equalization entail the effacement of figures such as the worker, the citizen, the patriot, and so forth. All of them disappear for the beneft of the living individual whose vital nucleus must be secured, and nothing exists outside of the great community of living bodies, the security of which will be the responsibility of private organisms acting with the blessing of the state. (26)

The suspect must be distinguished from the enemy, who typically belongs to the third age of security. The enemy comes from the exterior and by the very fact of his threat patches up the holes in the national community. The enemy is identifiable and definable: he is a calculating and rational agent. The suspect, however, is by definition non-locatable and unpredictable. He is here, close at hand, and his threatening presence turns me into a stranger even to my closest neighbors. We live in an age of suspicion and distrust: suspect individuals, suspicious packages, suspect food. This generalized distrust appears as the shadowy side of globalization. On the other hand, one finds the victim. The new dispositif of security turns the individual, rather than the state, into a sacred object. Thus it is the suffering of the individual, his victimized condition, which now becomes scandalous. This figure of the victim makes the biopolitical security function through a new regime of affects that turn on compassion, which for its part is triggered by the various stagings offered by the media. Security, pity, image: this is the new articulation, different from the old system of sovereignty which drove national security through heroism and narrative. (27)

Spiritual security presupposes spiritual vigilance: the vigilance of the wise man who pays careful attention to his spiritual capacities and means of support, as well as to his possible weaknesses, as studied by Foucault in Hermeneutics of the Subject as one of the aspects of the care of the self. Imperial security presupposes paternal solicitude: the Emperor watches over his subjects like the shepherd over his flock, with that kindly care studied by Foucault in his writings on pastoral government. Sovereign security presupposes centralized surveillance of internal and external enemies, all submitted to the total gaze of the state as in Bentham’s Panopticon, the kingdom of spies. Biopolitical security implies flow control: the control of movements and communications, but in a decentralized fashion, depending on competing transnational networks, which immediately raises the question of access: who will have the right of access to any given network to control or redistribute any given flow? (27)

Bruce Braun “Biopolitics and the Molecularization of Life”

November 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Braun, Bruce 2007. Biopolitics and the Molecularization of Life. Cultural Geographies 14(1): 6–28.


On the one hand, I will argue that Rose relies on a singular and somewhat simplistic account of what has transpired with the rise of molecular biology and genetics; namely, that the body has come to be figured in terms of a genetic cod that belongs to the individual alone – its own ‘proper’, so to speak, which is both its own property, and that which forms the basis for its life. For Rose, the individual self and the genetic body coincide; the body is conceived as a bounded entity whose molecular existence is internal to it […] (7)


It is here, at the intersection of the molecularization of life with the individualization of risk, that Rose locates ethopolitics as the dominant biopolitical regime of the present. […] Risk becomes ‘individualized’; the individual becomes ‘intrinsically somatic’; and ethical practices ‘increasingly take the body as a key site for work on the self’. (11)


Is the body really the bounded and autonomous entity that Rose makes it out to be, constituted only in terms of an internal genetic essence that is its own ‘proper’, and that contains its future within it? […] at the same time that molecular biology and genetics have given us a body known at the molecular scale, and thus made the physical mechanisms of ‘life’ available to political and economic calculation in new ways, they have also, in conjunction with the science of immunology and virology, given us another way to conceive of our biological existence, no longer in terms of a self-contained body whose genetic inheritance is to be managed and improved, but in terms of a body embedded in a chaotic and unpredictable molecular world, a body understood in terms of a general economy of exchange and circulation, haunted by the spectre of newly emerging or still unspecifiable risks. […] This conjunction of biopolitics and geopolitics, of the molecularized body and the question of biosecurity, finds no place in Rose’s ethopolitics […] (14)


For Massumi the ‘virtual’ has a precise meaning, taken from Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. It refers not to a nonexistent or immaterial entity, as in popular usage, but to a potentiality that is immanent in every object and in every situation. Unlike the ‘possible’, which is opposed to the real, the virtual is real, which is to say that it exists as concretely in the present. It is immaterial yet real, abstract yet concrete, a ‘future to come’ that is already with us, but which remains ungraspable. (17)


[biosecurity]: a set of political technologies that seek to govern biological disorder in the name of a particular community, through acts that are extraterritorial. Or, to say this differently, biosecurity under the auspices of the CDC and HHS retains the ideal of territoriality while simultaneously seizing on deterritorialization as the solution. (22)

Austin S. Babrow & Kimberly N. Kline “Frome “reducing” to “coping with” uncertainty”

February 3, 2016 Leave a comment

Babrow, Austin S.; Kline, Kimberly N. 2000. From “reducing” to “coping with” uncertainty: reconceptualizing the central challenge in breast self-exams. Social Science & Medicine 51: 1805-1816.

[…] BSE promotion commonly suggests that women can use the procedure to detect cancer, that such exams can detect cancer in its early stages, and that detecting it in early stages reduces the threat of breast cancer, and hence that BSE reduces uncertainties associated with breast cancer. (1805-1806)

[…] social scientifc researchers have typically overlooked the possibility that both the likelihood and benefits of BSE (both for early detection and for selfawareness) depend upon complex interactions among a number of factors. For example, BSE practices appear to be shaped by embarrassment, which itself is a function of uncertainties related to sexuality (Salazar & Carter, 1994), uncertainty about a health practitioner’s response if it is a false alarm (Salazar & Carter, 1994), more general self-confidence, etc. Self-confidence is likely related to personal experience with women who have/have not detected breast cancer through BSE, training, age or stage-of-life – or embarrassment. And exam proficiency, which may or may not improve breast cancer outcomes, is likely shaped by factors such as embarrassment and/or self-confidence (Champion, 1992). (1808)

But, reliance on the ideology of uncertainty reduction as the principal means of understanding motives for and barriers to BSE inhibits attention to the complexities that are likely to be present, particularly as they may reflect cultural variations, just as this insensitivity reinforces the ideology. For instance, we know of no empirical BSE research that recognizes that the meanings and significance of uncertainty varies across cultures (but see Basso, 1979; Fox, 1980). By contrast, the recent French consensus statement on clinical recommendations for women at increased risk of breast cancer (see Eisinger et al., 1999) underscores the potential significance of such cultural variations. (1808)

[…] it is not surprising to learn in a recent Washington Postarticle that “even Joanne Schellenback, director of public relations at the American Cancer Society (ACS), has trouble bringing herself to do the whole (procedure)” (Kastor, 1997). Even for this representative of the primary BSE advocatory organization, the ACS, there is concern that, “unless you really know what you’re doing, everything feels like cancer” (quoted in Kastor). (1808)

Notably, Kline’s (1999b) analysis of BSE mass media articles revealed that, “according to this discourse, women did not choose against BSE, they `resist[ed]’ doing or `fail[ed]’ at monthly self- examinations and then offered `excuses’ and `ignore[ed]’ symptoms because they were in a state of `denial’ ” (p. 128). (1809)

First, women who expressed positive feelings with regard to BSE had invariably detected cancer during self-examination (though the articles gave no speci®c information about the cancer stage, leaving the open question of whether they had detected cancer in its early stages). These witnesses maintained that all women should practice BSE. On the other hand, women who had not detected any cancer found it to be embarrassing, guilt-laden, and fearful – and then affirrmed that these were barriers that needed to be overcome. For example, one woman lamented that “In my mind, the `routine’ breast exam is not routine at all: It’s a grim, lonely ritual in which we probe our bodies, our womanliness, for death” (Schneider, 1986, p. 90). This same woman went on to say that “we all know what weshoulddo Ð what’s absolutely sensible and necessary for us to do. But sometimes we are too scared to be sensible.” (1809)

[…] the ideology assumes that certainty should increase with knowledge and understanding, but gains in knowledge and understanding are often accompanied by a realization of the complex and dynamic interplay of factors (e.g. those influencing our health). That is, learning often produces greater uncertainty. (1811)

A related limitation of the ideology is that it glosses the important fact that reducing uncertainty on a particular issue, such as getting a de®nitive diagnosis or finding a treatment, gives rise to a cascading sequence of consequent uncertainties. For example, a woman may resolve her uncertainty about whether BSE is in general an e€ective method of early detection only to become concerned about her own ability to perform the exam, how she would react if she found a suspicious lump, and ultimately about the outcome of a cancer diagnosis. The ideology of uncertainty reduction artificially punctuates experience at the point at which a given concern has been resolved. Clearly, this ignores the extended meanings of BSE that thread their way through so many aspects of women’s experience. (1811)

A fourth limitation of the ideology is that people often seek to sustain or create uncertainty (Babrow, 1995; Lazarus, 1983; Ford et al., 1996). Again, it is commonly assumed, particularly in England and the United States, that uncertainty is bad, that it must be reduced (for the sake of mental health, for the sake of rational action). However, a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer may want to increase uncertainty about possible outcomes because doing so will presuppose that survival and non-disfiguring surgery are all within the realm of possibility. (1811)

As a fundamental feature of illness experience, uncertainty is not so much a state that is Ð and must necessarily be – reduced. Rather, we mustcope with uncertainty. (1812)

In short, one must necessarily cope with uncertainty, which may or may not mean reducing it, in the process of coping with illness. Appraisal determines whether one will move to reduce, seek, or sustain uncertainty. (1812)

A second signi®cant characteristic of coping with uncertainty is the necessity of understanding clearly and adapting responses to the particular type of uncertainty a person is experiencing. One of the unfortunate inclinations fostered by the uncertainty reduction ideology is to see these experiences as homogenous. (1812)

We believe that the ideology of uncertainty reduction inclines medical experts, social scientists, journalists, and women considering BSE and those with whom they interact to homogenize and thereby erase these significant distinctions. In contrast, the coping framework naturally inclines one toward the idea that there is no single way to live with uncertainty because it can take on so many forms. (1813)

For example, the person who says that she is confused by what she has been told about BSE might be expressing (a) diculty understanding one or more technical aspects of the information, (b) information overload, (c) concern about the inconsistency of available information, (d) doubts about what sources to trust, and/or something else. Hence, a basic practical implication of the current analysis is that the hearer must clearly understand the form of the speaker’s uncertainty. (1813)

Women’s uncertainty should not be denied or discounted as a simple and simply eradicated nuisance. Rather, doctors and others who interact with a woman dealing with BSE (or any other health concern) should first and always be prepared to recognize, understand, and validate her uncertainty. Moreover, pamphlets and other BSE promotional discourse must not ignore or discount uncertainties as “excuses” with simple solutions. Rather, it should encourage women to identify, re¯ect on, and discuss their uncertainties with health care providers and other sources of information and support. These steps are ethically as well as pragmatically important. Only when uncertainties are seen, understood, and appreciated can communication be used to foster (re)appraisal of both the uncertainty and alternative coping strategies. (1814)

Willem De Lint & Sirpa Virta “Security in Ambiguity”

February 3, 2016 Leave a comment

De Lint, Willem; Virta, Sirpa 2004. Security in Ambiguity: Towards a radical security politics. Theoretical Criminology 8(4): 465-489.

As Ole Wæver (1995) has written, the ‘securitization’ of social life is a condition in which issues are depoliticized and alternative ways of framing and responding to the problems of order are lost. (466)

In international relations the framing of security draws on political realism and the view that the state is the principal actor in an international system where the raison d’ˆetre is the preservation or expansion of self-interest. (466)

First, what is the episteme of the dominant realist security narrative? As Walzer (1977) demonstrates, it takes its genealogy from Thucydides, in particular his observations about the Athenian decision to attack Melos. Interpretation of this historical incident has been converted into an ahistorical truism about the mandatory properties of a secure order. In Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, and Machiavelli’s Prince, realist constructions are elaborated as the necessary conditions between authority and security (Walzer, 1977). This realism is succoured by Cartesian doubt and anxiety. It belongs with what Edwards (1997) more recently has described as a ‘closed world’ epistemology in which the quest is the final measurement—and thereby control—of all objective threats. With the presumed necessity of the fixing of interpretation offered by the heurism of the Leviathan, security discourse is oriented towards the closure of the textual and contextual antecedents. This makes the dominant security discourse ahistorical and positivistic. (469)

Accountability, as transparency to the norm, marks the termination or end of leadership. (470)

Leaders, after all, must fix the signifier, must privilege one value over another, and so prevent endless signification and indecision. Politics, in this construction, becomes techne: it is equated with techniques to simplify those significations and decisions. (470)

The dominant realist discourse security, then, is understood as an object stripped of contextuality, frame or observer. Uncertainty is displaced with knowledge, particularly knowledge about security as an object. Security is then something made up with limits and boundaries. This is aided by a political philosophy that champions necessity and exceptionalism, secrecy, public relations and strong leadership. Security must be known through elite command of information. The authorized subject alone can properly know. As a discursive mobilization this involves the discovery and production of substantive dimensions of security knowledge deficits, known as ‘security gaps’. (472)

So with respect to the epistemic position, we know that, unlike natural or first-order phenomena,
security is already a ‘pre-ordered social structure’ that has been informed by the ‘collective agency of human beings [to] produce regularities that are more or less institutionalized over time and space’ (Gill, 2003: 16). (473)

[…] Hänninen argues that politics may be usefully defined with the term ‘living with ambiguity’. This follows the Pocockian idea that politics ‘deals with the contingent event’ (in H¨anninen, 2000: 27). It is also consistent with Theodore Adorno’s definition of the authoritarian personality: intolerance of ambiguity. Authoritarianism is an intolerance of relationships other than dominion or submission and for the ambiguity that equal standing implies. It is identified with a predilection for decisive judgement and premature closure. A radical security politics, then, is both a rejection of authoritarianism and an embracing of ambiguity. (473)

According to Hänninen (2000), in a ‘society of control’ political action becomes an externality. This is to say, politics is continually conceived as separate from power and dangerous to order. The separations are aided by our inability to imagine politics as bounded in definite territorial and public space and by our thinking of ‘pure political events as always something which has just happened or is about to happen’ (H¨anninen, 2000: 30). Seen as a contingent event or a moment of chance, politics is the object of governmentalization (Holquist, 1997). (474)

Security is a process in which the field of risks are cultivated in the service of ongoing and potential operations. Thus, normatively and substantively, security = uncertainty. (476)

To restate: a radical security politics must serve to make the spaces of politics from which security might emerge. It must then celebrate the dynamism of those spaces. Even doing only this still requires offering some minimal defence of such a project. We believe that since this is already implicitly consistent with the objective of harm minimization, particularly the reduction of harm that derives from the defence of ambiguity, the substantive objective and even a kind of normativity may be reconciled with the urgings to de-normalize and de-individualize. It may be possible to argue that both the broadening of the political and the vetting of security policy ought to be undertaken with the aim of harm reduction. (478)

Security in ambiguity, on the contrary, structures the process of security discovery to afford a multiplicity of standpoints and conduits, maximizing the chances of chance. Built on the politics of events rather than organization, it prioritizes the creation of contingent, open spaces and makes institutions continuously accountable for harm reductions, or the harm that may come from or be prevented by the large array of institutions serving or abusing the need for security. Security in ambiguity and for harm reduction means inserting security as a reason for opening up the political in the long-term aim of reducing catastrophic dangers. Practically, this may be accomplished by subjecting institutions to unpredictability and to minor, particular, yet common interests. Ultimately, interdependency dictates not the balkanization or privatization of benefits and risks in the protection of enclaves, but rather security risk and benefit socialization and redistribution in the re-stimulation of the social. (478)

For us, the problem of security, like the problem of order, demands immediate reference to the political as a source of positive power. A politics of marginality depends on ever-changing action against the terror of the unambiguous order. It requires bringing the genuine idea of the political and politics into the discourse at the outset. (480)